Introduction: How to Make a Stainless Steel Wok Station / Fryer / Griddle
In a previous Instructables I showed you how to make a wok station, in this Instructable I will show you how to make an updated version of the wok station and this time it will be made from stainless steel. This wok station will allow you to to make incredible stir-frys. It will have the power to give your stir-frys that restaurant style flavor. In Chinese cooking they call that Wok-Hei in Cantonese which literally translates to "breath of the wok".
But this wok station isn't just for stir-frys, I have used it to boil large pots of water for seafood boils and it is an awesome deep fryer too.
One thing I have learned during this build is stainless steel is much harder to work with than mild steel (steel that rusts). Stainless steel work hardens very quickly, so unless you have a very sharp drill bit and lots of pressure, drilling holes can take forever.
The reason why I wanted to make one from stainless steel is the oil that builds up from cooking is really hard to clean off a painted surface and I can leave this station uncovered outside and it will just tarnish and not rust. Also it looks awesome! ;)
So lets get to it!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
So this build will require the following materials and tools, I will try to list everything but I may forget something. Also this build requires a welder but you could mostly bolt the whole thing together. There is only one part that really requires welding for the burner ring.
It should be noted that to make the wok station from stainless steel will cost about 1/2 more than if it was made from mild steel. The amounts list are only estimates as I forget how much I bought, also it is generally more cost effective to buy in full lengths and cut yourself. An exception is the sheet metal, get the metal shop to cut this for you as they do it with a shear and will save you a ton of time than cutting it yourself and it will be straight and square.
Materials for Wok Station
- 1/8" x 1" 304 Stainless flat bar stock (304 is the type of stainless and is the most common)
- 1/8" x 1" 304 Stainless angle stock
- 14 gauge, 18 gauge and 20 gauge stainless steel sheet metal
- #8-32 x 1/2" stainless bolts and nuts
- 1/4" stainless rod
- Stainless steel welding rods
Materials for Burner
- High pressure propane regulator (red in color)
- schedule 40 pipe (pipe is measured by the inside diameter, the schedule is the wall thickness)
- 1/2" iron pipe
- 1/2" iron pipe fittings (elbows)
- Various pipe fittings and connectors to connect to the high pressure propane regulator
- Universal BBQ ignition system
- PTFE tape or pipe sealant
or you can buy a burner and regulator:
- Stick welder
- Angle grinder with metal cutting disc and grinding discs
- Bandsaw, hacksaw
- Drill bits of various sizes
- #8-32 Tap
- Center punch
- Screw drivers
- Sandpaper, emery cloth
- Speed square, framing square
- Lots of clamps
- Vice Grips
Step 2: Video of the Complete Build
Here is a video of the complete build, the written steps follow:
Step 3: Building the Frame
The first thing is to build a good frame, it's made from 1/8" x 1" stainless angle steel. You can change the height to what ever that fits you but for me 28" was a good height including the height of the casters and wok ring.
The overall size of the wok station will be 28" x 18" x 18", I will give the overall steps how I built it but your build might be slightly different so adjust as required.
I had thought about drilling holes and bolting the frame together in case I wanted to make the wok station super portable and small for storage. But I decided on welding it together as it was far easier.
Make one side of the frame at a time and then joining the two side together to make frame is what I found to be the easiest way to make it. This keeps things square and will reduce headaches later.
Make the left and right sides:
- Cut 4 pieces of 1/8" x 1" stainless angle steel to 24", these will be the "legs"
- Cut 4 pieces of 1/8" x 1" stainless angle steel to 17 1/2", these will be the top of the frame.
- Cut 4 pieces of 1/8" x 1" stainless angle steel to 17 1/2", these will be the middle support and burner mounting rails.
- Using some clamps or vice grips, square up the angle steel to make a rectangle. The burner mounting rails were placed at the 13" measured from the top.
- Measure across the diagonal of the frame so both sides are equal.
- Tack weld in place, just enough so it holds, you want to be able to adjust if necessary.
- Remeasure the diagonal of the frame, adjust if needed.
- Once the two sides are equal finish the welds
- Repeat to make the opposite side.
To put the frame together so it looks like a stand, I used 2 of the 1/8" x 1" stainless angle steel and welded the two sides together from the previous step. They were clamped in placed and then welded.
Make sure to measure on the diagonal to check for squareness before welding the whole frame together. If the frame is square it will save you many headaches down the road.
Step 4: Adding Casters
Angle stainless steel was welded to the legs of the frame and then holes were drilled and tapped so casters could be bolted on. Annealing the steel by heating it up and drilling it made it significantly easier to drill. Stainless steel work hardens very quickly when working with it (drilling and cutting). When tapping the holes for threads lots of cutting fluid was used. The tap and bolts I used was 8-32.
Step 5: Drilling Holes for Panels
The panels for the front, back and sides of the station were attached by bolts, so for cleaning and maintenance would be easy. There is two ways to do this, either drill holes and just bolt the panels on or drill and tap the holes so no nut is required. The disadvantage to tapping a hole is it takes much longer and working with stainless steel is really slow.
Stainless steel will work harden very quickly, meaning as you work on the steel it actually becomes harder to work with. There are a few tips for working with it: make sure your drill bits are sharp, slow down your feed speed but increase the pressure on the drill bit, use cutting oil. But I found the best method including what I mentioned is you should anneal it with heat (heating it up and cooling it).
Even with annealing it was hard to work with so I decided to just sacrifice a few drill bits and drill the steel while it was still hot. Do this with caution because red hot swaths of metal can burn you or catch combustible materials on fire.
Hint: also learn how to sharpen drill bits on a grinder or belt sander, having a sharp edge on the bit is a must.
So holes were drilled on the panels and the frame for mounting. Then they were tapped (#8-32 tapered tap) so the bolts could be screwed directly into the metal frame. I used #8-32 bolts. Also make sure to lubricate when using a tap. Note on the sides, the panels were mounted 1" from the top so a splatter guard can be installed later.
The panels were test fitted with the bolts.
Step 6: Burner
Warning: working with propane is dangerous so do not attempt this and I am including this only so you are informed. I recommend you buy a manufactured burner.
So what powers this wok station is DIY high pressure propane burner. I made my own as I like the output power and shape of the flame. But if you don't feel comfortable making your own, please don't as I take no responsibility if you hurt yourself working with propane.
I found an alternate that works really well that is used for large outdoor cookers. You can find it on amazon at a really good price when on sale and a matching high pressure regulator.
A high pressure regulator with hose is required for this burner and you can tell it is a high pressure regulator as it will be red in color. A quick release was used as well so the propane hose could be removed and connected to other appliances.
The burner is very simple, it's made from a 1/2" x 8" long steel pipe for the main body and a piece of schedule 40 2.5" pipe for the burner tube. I used a 1.4mm drill bit for the orifice hole that was drilled into the 1/2" x 8" pipe. The 2.5" pipe was welded to the 1/2" x 8" pipe centered over the orifice hole. The burner assembly was then welded to some stainless angle steel that are 18" wide that will be bolted to the frame of the wok station.
Some additional fittings are required to connect the burner to the propane hose and regulator. Using a few elbows and shorter 1/2" pipe fittings the burner was plumbed so the quick connect was off to the left side and downward. A needle valve was plumbed so the burner could be controlled, a needle valve gives a great degree of control of the flame size. However the needle valve is slow to turn so a ball valve can be used as well, it just doesn't give as fine of control of the flame. Experiment to see what works best for you. Make sure to use PTFE tape to seal all the threads.
Adding a electric start was accomplished by using a universal BBQ ignition system. Two holes were drilled in the burner tube about 1/3 the way up. Then the electrode and a ground bolt was fastened into place. Follow the instruction for the ignition system for operation.
For more details watch the build video.
Step 7: Top and Burner Ring
To build this part requires some fabrication and the use of a welder that can weld stainless steel. The easiest way and most cost effective way is to use a sticker welder with some stainless steel welding rods which is what I am doing. If you have access to a MIG or TIG setup that can do stainless that's even better.
The top of the wok station is made from a piece of 18" x18" 14 gauge stainless steel, that was welded onto the frame. The ring the wok will sit on is made from a piece of 3" x 28" 14 gauge stainless steel.
A circle was traced on the 18" x 18" gauge stainless, the size of the circle will depend on the size of your wok. I made this one 14"in diameter. It depends on how large your wok is but I found 14" ring is a good size for a wok station that is 18" x 18"
The piece of 3" x 28" 14 gauge stainless steel was first pre-bent into a circle over a bucket. Then it was tacked welded into place over the circle, then each section of the ring was moved and tacked into place until the whole piece of metal was bent and welded in place. Don't worry about welding the whole thing, just tacks every 1" or so will do. Also welding long beads at one time will cause the metal to warp.
The rear of the ring has been left over as a vent for the burner.
After the ring is in place, the hole was cut out on inside of the ring using an angle grinder.
Step 8: Side Tables
The side tables were made from some finger jointed pine boards, stained and varnished so it will be sealed from the elements since this wok station will spend it's life outside. The side tables can be collapsed by using a cleat and rod mount. There is a "French cleat" mounted to the bottom of the side tables and then a bent 1/4" stainless steel rod is used to hold up the table that is wedged into the cleat. This is a very strong and sturdy mechanism.
To mount the side tables some hinges were bolted to the sides panels of the frame.
Fit the panels and side tables to the hinges on the wok station.
The frame of the wok station had some 1" angle steel welded in place and a hole drill to accept the 1/4" stainless steel rod. The 1/4" rod was bent into a "U" shape and then mounted into the holes of the 1" angle steel. See the pictures as it's hard to describe but very easy to see and understand.
Step 9: Splatter Guard
A splatter guard was made from 20 gauge stainless steel. The mounting system was built so the guard could be removed for ease of cleaning. A piece of sheet steel was bent into a corner so the three pieces that make up the guard could be bolted together.
The mounting system is 1" x 1/8" bar stainless bar stock welded on the frame with 1/8" spacers at the two end and middle, this was done on the sides and back. Then the splatter guard had notches cut out so it would fit into the mount. Another option would have been to bolt the splatter guard on.
For cleaning the removable splatter guard is a must as the heat from cooking really bakes on the grease.
Step 10: Putting the Wok Station Together
Now it's time to put the whole station together, the burner was mounted, ignition system installed, the front panel was bolted on. All the sharp edges were sanded with emery cloth, taking extra care around the burner ring and splatter guard. Then all the surfaces were polished with metal polish.
At this point the Wok Station is looking very professional and ready for use!
A final note about woks: you want to get a wok that is light with thin metal. It sounds counter intuitive because in the kitchen you want pots and pans with a heavy wall and bottom so it retains and distributes the heat evening. However you want the wok to be thin, the reasoning is when you have a burner that can basically overwhelm the wok with it's shear power it's not necessary to have thermal mass. In fact the thermal mass can be hindrance, thinness allows the wok to cool quickly or heat up quickly.
Hope you enjoyed this build and consider following me on Instructables and youtube for more cooking related content!